Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Thoughts

As a boy, Christmas was by far my most anxiously awaited day of the year. I used to mark the days off a calendar tacked to my bedroom wall, starting the day after Thanksgiving. My mother adored all things Christmas, and her enthusiasm was infectious. You couldn’t live in her house and not be excited about Christmas. I would hear her singing, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” every single day of the season.

I made my Christmas wishes known early in a personal letter to Santa Claus. I wrote a copy for my mother just in case the rumors swirling around elementary school concerning the “Santa Question” turned out to be factual. I didn’t want to believe it then, and I’m still not happy about it even now. I understand the universal truths about no free lunches and what goes around comes around, but c’mon, wouldn’t the world be a far better place with a real Santa Claus in it? Oh sure, I know what you’re thinking. Somebody, somewhere would be offended. Santa would be forced to lawyer up to deal with all the injunctions. His liability insurance would go out the roof, so to speak. And attempts would be made to unionize his helpers and risk outsourcing the entire production process to India. But wouldn’t an iPod or an iPad or an iPhone underneath the tree help? Or a pair of iMittens and a scarf? Or a signed copy of Shall Never See So Much? Of course it would.

But I digress.

On Christmas Eve, our tradition was to have our family gathering at my grandmother’s home. Our family budgets were always limited, but that didn’t stop my grandmother and uncles from giving terrific gifts. I couldn’t wait to tear into my stack of boxes. And I was never disappointed.

On Christmas Day, my brother and I awoke early and charged into the living room to see what awaited. I remember some of the sights, but what I remember more clearly were the smells of the electronic devices like radios and trains and games. Santa was perpetually generous, a nice return on the investment of a cookie and glass of milk, which he never entirely finished. We then opened the gifts we exchanged as a family, which, in my case, tended more toward gifts of clothing. A big breakfast with big biscuits and sausage followed, and then it was on to playing with the new stuff.

Our extended family gathered in the afternoon at our home. I wish I could turn back the clock and have just one more hour with my parents and relatives all under that same roof again. One more hour to share the laughter and the revel in the fellowship of family. Just one hour.

When our family gathers this Christmas, I’ll make it a point to remember that priceless memories are being made. I’ll enjoy each moment, each person, like we always do, like we used to do when I was a kid. No, I can’t get that long-ago hour back, but I can enjoy and savor the hour I’ll be gifted when we’re all together again.

I can’t wait. And for the record, I still miss Santa Claus.

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